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Made for wandering

With its medieval alleyways, majestic palaces, lifts that whisk you from the city centre up the steep hillsides and the Mediterranean at your doorstep, Genoa is a truly unique city. Enjoy an intimate portrait of this new KLM destination.

Explore the city
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    Iris van den Broek
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    Iris van den Broek
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    Iris van den Broek

Text & Photography by Iris van den Broek

I’m lost in Genoa… and loving it! The oldest medieval city centre in Europe (well, after Venice) is a maze of alleyways, and in some areas they are no more than a metre wide. This labyrinth is perfect for wandering, losing your way, hunting for hidden treasures and exploring. Photogenic and dark, surprising and sometimes grungy, colourful and elegant: I quickly discover that Genoa is a city with a lot of character.

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“This city gets under your skin”

No matter who I talk to, everyone loves to talk about Genoa. “This city gets under your skin,” says a waiter, as I sip an Italian espresso on the charming Piazza delle Erbe. Sì, I agree with him. Funny enough, this harbour city has yet to be discovered by mass tourism, which makes Genoa enviously authentic. No streets packed with souvenir shops and street vendors, but rows of palazzi and restaurants that mostly attract local diners.

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Spectacular palaces

One of the city’s most beautiful streets is the Via Garibaldi, a collection of Renaissance and Baroque architecture that wouldn’t look out of place in Florence. These ‘Palazzi dei Rolli’ were built here in the 16th century by Genoan aristocrats. The wealthiest families in town were responsible for receiving high-ranking visitors, including cardinals and heads of state.

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Hidden Treasures Genua 5 Prachtige Paleizen

The palazzi were divided into different categories: the more important the visitors, the more outlandish the palace that would host them. These Palazzi dei Rolli are unique to Genoa and a reason in itself to visit the city.

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A stylish stay

To remain in the style of the Palazzi dei Rolli, I stay at the magnificent Bristol Palace, one of the loveliest hotels in Genoa. The rooms with sky-high ceilings, heavy velvet curtains and gigantic chandeliers exude an air of royalty. Alfred Hitchcock was a frequent guest here in the early 1900s. Rumour has it that the staircase in his film Vertigo was inspired by the gorgeous oval staircase in the lobby, the most eye-catching feature in the hotel.

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The Spianata di Castelletto offers the best views of the city. I immediately understand why it is called the balcony of the city: a 360-degree panorama view unfolds in front of my eyes. 

A lift uphill

Genoa is also known as the vertical city. Around town you will find various lifts and cable cars that whisk the residents of Genoa up the hillsides. I board the funicular near Piazza del Portello. At the top, I find myself far from the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre. This neighbourhood is much quieter, lovelier and greener, with quaint squares and gardens.

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Pesto Genovese… and chocolate

Italians love food. Good food! And Genoans are no exception. A real local speciality is the Pesto Genovese, the green gold. Even if a restaurant only serves four dishes, you can bet that at least one of them will feature pesto as its main ingredient. Buon appetito!

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Another typical Genoa treat is chocolate. In a side alley of a side alley of a side alley I find Romeo Viganotti, the oldest chocolate maker in Genoa. The shop dates back to 1866 and celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. The owner, Alessandro Boccardo, and his son, Eugenio, still create authentic chocolate that attracts tourists and locals alike.

“At Christmas time, people line up around the corner”

Unlike in Southern Italy, chocolate is very popular here. Romeo Viganotti doesn’t follow an actual recipe. “It’s all a feeling. ‘Q.B’ (quanto basta) as we say in Italy,” says Eugenio. “It means as much as needed. I take a look and decide.” He hands me a chocolate. I take a bite and nod; he sure has a feeling.

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The lively Piazza De Ferrari

On my way back to the hotel, I stroll across the largest square in Genoa, the ever-lively Piazza De Ferrari. The water of the impressive fountain sparkles in the pleasant evening light and people are soaking up the last rays of sunshine. It’s a lovely image of a city that I have learned to love in just a short amount of time. The waiter was so right: Genoa indeed gets under your skin!

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